Here We Go Again

18 04 2012

I honestly never thought I’d see this many suspensions handed out during the playoffs.  Yes, there’s something to be said for the fervor and passionate playing that gets kicked up a notch at this time of year, but this is completely out of control.  I don’t even know where to start, but let’s go with the most covered of them all:  everybody and their brother on the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.

I know this might not be a very popular opinion with everyone, but hear me out.  As a hockey fan that does not like the Flyers in the least bit, I’m honestly so disappointed in the Penguins for their behavior during that game.  You know what Philly is going to bring to the game:  grit and aggression.  They’re known around the league as a team and organization that likes to push its opponents’ buttons.  With that said, Pittsburgh gave an uncharacteristic and inappropriate reaction to them.  I mean really?  You’ve got Sidney Crosby picking fights with Claude Giroux now?  Kris Letang and Kimmo Timonen both got tossed out of the game before it really started.  It seems like Pittsburgh wanted to let their fists do the talking instead of their skill, which only hurt them in the end.  Philly instigated maybe one or two of those fights.  They sat back, chirped, and let the Penguins come to them and take the fall.  Now you’ve got Asham out for 4 games, Neal is suspended for 1 which, to be honest, could be the last game of the Penguins’ season if they don’t clean up their act.  It’s just disgraceful.  And again, I know this might not be the most popular of opinions, but that’s what it is.  Take it or leave it.


New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators

Matt Carkner got into it with Brian Boyle in Game 2 in New York to start his team out with a little more energy.  However, I don’t think this was the right way to do it.  It’s a completely one-sided fight.  Carkner takes down Boyle, who doesn’t respond, and throws these sucker punches at the bottom of an 8 player pile-up.  I understand fighting and its place in hockey, but I thought there was more of a mutual respect between players in terms of fighting.  If Boyle doesn’t respond, you let him go.  You don’t take him down to the ice and start punching him around.  I didn’t think there should be a suspension here, I just thought it was uncalled for and inappropriate.

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Phoenix Coyotes

So I have two bones to pick with my team:  one in favor, one against.  This hit by Andrew Shaw on Mike Smith wasn’t, in my opinion, dirty in any way.  However, I completely see how this hit requires review by the league and, ultimately, a suspension.  If this had happened to Corey Crawford, I’d expect a suspension too, strictly because goaltenders are like the quarterbacks of hockey:  you can’t touch them.  And no matter how much I like Andrew Shaw and think he isn’t a dirty player, if anyone else did this I’d expect to see the same punishment for them, too.

Now, on a more serious note, I was absolutely furious last night when I saw the hit that Rafi Torres laid on Marian Hossa.

If he doesn’t get at least 4 games for this hit, Brendan Shanahan needs to have his head examined, because this was dirty in every sense of the word.  Torres left his feet, targeted the head, and is a repeat offender.  Hossa was carted off on a freaking stretcher, and there was NO PENALTY CALLED ON THE PLAY!  I couldn’t believe it when I saw it.  Torres did this last year too, with Vancouver, on Brent Seabrook.  This feels like last season when Aaron Rome laid that hit on Nathan Horton.  But, in case you forgot, here’s a video:

There is no way the refs can play ignorance on this.  Skip to 2:48.  The ref, who is standing right in front of the hit, lurched back as a reaction, then did NOTHING.  Absolutely disgraceful.  I’d like to think that players were past this, but it seems that Torres missed that memo.  I would love to see what the league does with this, because I think they need to treat as they did Matt Cooke.  He was a repeat offender, and after being suspended repeatedly, he switched up his game.  Torres needs to do the same.

What do you guys think of the scrappy nature of this first round of the playoffs?  Let us know in the comments!

-M

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And Then There Were Two…

18 03 2012

A hockey team is made up of 20 players:  eight wingers, six defensemen, four centers, and two goalies.  It’s not surprising that the forwards get the most attention, considering they’re the ones scoring most of the goals and making the fancy plays that hit the highlight reels every night on ESPN.  But, on any given night, a team could thrive or completely tank depending on the play of one person:  the goaltender.

These guys make me feel like I need to stretch every day, I mean really?!  They’re crazy flexible!  You think the goal can’t be that big, but when you have a puck coming at you at about 90 mph (or 108 mph if you’re Zdeno Chara, that friggin’ giraffe), your reflexes have to be crazy quick.  In my opinion, the thing the separates a good goaltender from a great goaltender is simple:  he’s not a sieve.  He’s big in the net, crazy quick, and gives his team a legitimate chance to win every game, no matter who the opponent is.  So, in honor of the smallest contingent of men in the NHL, we here at Hockey’s Finest present the Top 6 (because I couldn’t pick just 5) goaltenders of the 2011-2012 season.

6.  Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes

I mean REALLY?!  Marian Gaborik is a dangerous shooter, and Smitty just closes the door.  Unreal.  But like I said before, a team is only as good as its goalie.  And Phoenix is absolutely not an exception to that rule.  When was the last time they were a legitimate threat going into the playoffs?  As of right now, they’re one point outside the race, sitting in 10th place in the West just behind San Jose.  But you had better believe that without Smith posting a .924 save percentage (tied with Kari Lehtonen and Pekka Rinne), they would be an afterthought sitting in the Western Conference basement.  The fact that they can be included in the playoff conversation, especially after their less-than-stellar play the last few season is remarkable, and Mike Smith deserves a huge hunk of the credit.

5.  Pekka Rinne, Nashville Pedators

Homeboy is ridonkulous.  He has to be one of the quickest goalies in the league, second only to Thomas the Tank Engine in Beantown (he’s got those short lil’ legs).  Rinne is truthfully the backbone of that Nashville team.  Yes, Shea Weber gets the bulk of the attention, but if you ask any NHL forward who they don’t like to see between the pipes on the other team, Rinne’s always in the conversation.  Plus, he has a sick name.  You can’t compete with that.

4.  Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings

Yet another very appropriate name.  He’s so speedy!  It’s hard for you as a player to look at the goal while you have the puck on your stick because, personally, I’d be thinking, “Oh $#!+, it’s JQ and I’m not gonna score, am I?”  NOPE.  He’s a wall.  Thankfully he gets the recognition he deserves, because even when the Kings hit the skids, Quick is always on the positive side of the conversation.  Great player.

3.  Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

I know some of you might be wondering why I put Thomas so high on this list, and it’s a valid question.  To me, Thomas is an elite goaltender.  Boston sports fans put their athletes on this pedestal of a God-like status, and Thomas has been up there for quite some time.  Yes, his save percentage is nowhere near where it was last year.  However, that stat was truly unreal, and I’m surprised he bounced back this well after the year the Bruins had and the short summer.  Plus, he’s just a solid dude.  I has a soft spot for Timmay, what can I say?

2.  Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, St. Louis Blues

Talk about a dark horse team.  If you had asked any pundit out there what team would be the first o reach 100 points the year, very few if any at all, would have pegged the Blues for that distinction.  I put both of their goalies together because they’ve split the season almost down the middle and, truthfully, are one of the best tandems in the league (Thomas/Rask in Boston are the other).  Every night, no matter who seems to be between the pipes, St. Louis is solid as a brick wall back there.  They’re just nuts, I can’t even stand it.

1.  Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

Oh, Hank.  You’re so dreeeeaaammmyyyyy :) *AHEM* I mean, he’s very talented…..whatever, we all know Henrik is gorg, and then there’s the flow….is it hot in here?  Okay I’m done.  But on the serious, folks, isn’t it always the pretty ones that end up being the most talented?  I like to call it Taylor Swift syndrome:  They’re pretty, they’re nice, they’re talented, and you want to hate them on principle, but you CAN’T.  BECAUSE THEY’RE SO DARN NICE.  And Lundqvist has got to be one of the most humble, nice guys in the league, and to go along with how clutch he is every single night for the Rangers is simply remarkable.  I can’t even fathom putting someone else at the top of this list, even though they’ve hit a bit of a slump lately, but he’s just too good.  Even in the clip above, the Rangers were down by 2 with 8 minutes left in the 3rd period, and he just keeps fighting.  He’s a dirty goalie, in the best way possible.  Now if only I can find a way to just touch the hair and not get arrested…..ideas?

What do you guys think?  Did we leave anyone out?  Let us know in the comments!

-M